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The Many Stans of Central Asia

2 min read

Aside from being located in Central Asia, what does Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan (phew, that was a long list) have in common? 

If you guessed that they all end in stan then you are right. But why is that so?

Until late in the 20th century, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were all part of the former Soviet Union. They all became independent states (countries) in 1991 when the U.S.S.R. dissolved. So, there were not much stan-ending countries before the USSR dissolved.

Generally speaking, the suffix stan is actually an ancient Persian/Farsi word that equivalents to country, nation, land, or place. This means that the Afghanistan can be called Afghan Land, or Place of the Afghans. Pretty much how we call Ireland Ireland, right?


Let’s take a closer look countries we noted in this article:

  1. Afghanistan was called differently until the third century, but most historians agree that the name came from a 9th century Iranian emperor named Apakan.
  2. Kazakhstan came from the Turkic word Kazakh which means a free man. The name was also adapted by the Cossacks from Russia.
  3. Kyrgyzstan people originally came from Mongolia, and were considered to be mountain-born people. The word Kyr means mountain range in Turkish. When someone is referring to a series or group of mountain ranges, they add gyz. So the most probable explanation for the name Kyrgyzstan is that it means Mountaineers’ Land. There is also one other prevailing opinon which welcomes that the country refers to an old Turkic language which means 40 tribes (Kyrg- 40 and yz – tribes)
  4. Pakistan is considered to be one of the variations in the stan family. It’s noted that most historians believe that the word Pakistan came from mixing word stan from the existing Baluchistan with the first letters of  Pashtun, Afakan, Kasmir and India, thus forming PAKI. Some historians, on the other hand, consider the fusion of two words Pak and Istan which means Pure Homeland.
  5. Tajikistan came from the Persian word Taj which means crown or head.
  6. Turkmenistan’s name refers to the Turks of Asia.
  7. Uzbekistan came from the Turkish words vz which means real or genuine and bek which means man. Thus, Uzbekistan means Land of Genuine Men.

I hope that you learned something from this fun fact. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the best facts that will surely make you smarter today. Remember to stay curious, and keep learning.




Rudolph is a learner. He loves to read tons of stuff, from nutrition facts to novels. Currently, he helps people get unstuck with their homework as a Junior Market Specialist at Brainly. He also loves burgers.

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